A new music venue, White Horse Black Mountain, touted by co-owner Kim Hughes as “a quality music hall,” opens Saturday, Nov.1, in Black Mountain. Bluegrass band Larry Keel and Natural Bridge will perform on opening night.
“We weren’t sure when our renovations would be done, so booking a band was complicated, but Larry Keel’s booking agent called and said that one of the band members is getting married in Asheville this weekend and they wanted to be our opener,” Hughes says.
Hughes and husband Bob Hinkle discovered the 4,300-square-foot space, which at one time was a Chevrolet dealership, in late April. Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce Director Bob McMurray, on a hunch, took Hughes and Hinkle to see the dilapidated building at 105-C Montreat Road. The couple immediately envisioned the possibilities for a new music venue.
“It just started taking place in front of our eyes,” Hughes says. “We were like, ‘Here’s where a stage could go, here’s where the bar could be, here are good spots for bathrooms.’”
The new venue aims to fill the void of another well-known music joint, the Grey Eagle Tavern and Music Hall, which relocated from Black Mountain to Asheville in 1998. Other local music venues, such as the Town Pump and the Watering Hole, feature live music but are smaller than the White Horse Black Mountain.
“We’ve talked a lot about that with White Horse — how it’s almost like getting the Grey Eagle back,” says Dan Cordell, building inspector for the town of Black Mountain. “The venue’s bigger than anything else we have right now so we’ll be able to get some bigger names in it. It’s a perfect structure and a perfect place for great music.”
The White Horse Black Mountain will differ slightly in its musical offerings from The Grey Eagle, which offers an eclectic mix of performers, including lots of indie rock and new rock bands.
“We want to specialize in acoustic music, not rock or indie rock,” Hughes says. “There’s nothing to do at night here after dinner except go to a couple of smoky bars, which is fine if that’s what you’re in the mood for. We want to offer something a little classier without being obnoxiously wholesome.”
The nonsmoking space seats 225 and can hold up to 300 for standing room performances. The venue offers bar and waiter service, with beer, wine, nonalcoholic beverages and a light menu available. The space also can be rented for private parties and corporate or civic functions.
Hinkle and Hughes moved to Black Mountain from New York City in December 2007. An Asheville native, Hinkle’s 40-year career in the entertainment business includes work as a musician, a record company president, executive producer, songwriter and audio/video producer. Some of the artists Hinkle represented included: The J. Geils Band, Harry Chapin, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Eta James, Tom Chapin, Kenny Rogers and Patti Lupone.
Hughes enjoyed a 15-year career as an opera singer, in addition to her private counseling and life coach practice.
Both will continues to consult in their areas of expertise, in addition to running White Horse Black Mountain.
“This is what Black Mountain needs, and the townspeople seem to agree. Everyone we talk to is really excited,” Hughes says.
Hughes hopes the venue will appeal both to tourists and locals. She notes that the area hasn’t been as hard hit economically as others because of both its natural beauty and easy driving distance from a number of urban areas.
As construction at the Cliffs of High Carolina in Swannanoa, currently the largest development in Buncombe County, continues, so does area growth and new business development.
Larry Keel and Natural Bridge will perform at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Call 669-2502 for tickets. Tickets also will be available at the door on Nov. 1. Seating is first come, first served, so music lovers are encouraged to come early. For more information, visit www.whitehorseblackmountain.com.
—Anne Fitten Glenn, freelance writer